A day with Chhouk, the elephant, and friends

Trip Start Sep 24, 2009
Trip End Apr 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
Juliana Hotel

Flag of Cambodia  ,
Thursday, December 31, 2009

 Today, we booked a tour to the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Refuge Centre.    This is a very large park 40km out of Phnom Penh.  We rode in the back of an ex-military jeep along some pretty bumpy and dusty roads to get there!  They normally take up to 6 people, but we were lucky enough to be on our own today!

The refuge centre takes in various wild animals that have been injured or abandoned in the wild, or have been rescued from mistreatment by their owners (where the wild animal was kept as a pet).  The most famous animal here is Chhouk, a baby elephant that was found a few years ago with a badly injured foot.   He was wandering through the jungle on his own, emaciated and in distress.  They believe his foot was caught in a snare, and his mother had to eventually abandon him as the herd moved on.  He eventually somehow managed to rip his foot out the snare.  They had to remove 12cm of damaged tissue from his foot.  He now happily wears a prosthetic foot.   The owner of the tour company is a big contributor to the wildlife centre which means that their tours get special access to some of the animals.  So we got special private meeting with 3-year old Chhouk and his 11-year old elephant friend, Lucky.  How cool is that?!    

A story about Chhouk, if you're interested:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/5897197/Crippled-elephant-walks-again-thanks-to-false-foot.html - and I’m sure you can Google some others.

 The environment here at the refuge centre is really good – lots of space for them to wander around, and in a fairly natural environment.  My pics make it look like many of them are in cages – but it’s not as bad as it looks.  The tigers were brought into cages for feeding, presumably to make sure they each get the right portions, etc.  (It also allowed us to watch up close – another privilege of our special access rights with the tour company.)  Their main environment was pretty good – large and spacious, lots of natural trees growing, ponds to play in, etc.

Happy New Year!

Our New Year’s Eve night was pretty quiet.  We were fairly tired after a great day at the Refuge Centre, but the jarring jeep ride, heat and dust took it out of us a bit.  Nevertheless, we summoned the energy to get cleaned up, grab a tuktuk and head into town for a dinner.  But I didn’t quite make it to midnight.  I think it was the two Long Island Ice Teas (with 4 types of alcohol in them) that knocked me off.  Funny thing was, they didn’t even taste nice!

Today, New Year’s Day, was spent (finally!) lounging by the pool with a book.   It was bliss – especially knowing that tomorrow we have a 5 hour bus ride to Kampot.  I read in a local paper today that the road is in two states:  half of it is in a state of disrepair, and the rest of it is being repaired.  Hmmm… that doesn’t bode well for us!

Happy New Year to you! 


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